New Time Period Resolutions

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For long time I was skeptical of the whole “new year, new you” mentality, as I am sure some of you are. The calendar reading 2015 instead of 2014 does not have any real influence over whether or not I am actually going to exercise or read more or do any of the things I resolved to do. Eventually, however, my perspective was changed. Back in high school, while working on my Girl Scout Gold Award, I was required to set a boatload of goals, and all of these goals had to follow the well-known SMART format. Attributed to Peter Drucker and George Doran, SMART stands for:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Results-based

Time-bound

Being forced to practice making and achieving goals following this framework entirely changed my perspective on resolutions. I had to ask myself a lot of questions and analyze each goal. How would I measure my progress? What would my results be? By when did I want to accomplish it? For example, instead of resolving to read more, I might say that I want to read 10 books from authors not from the US by the time school gets out for summer. That narrows in on what I really want, to expand my horizons, while giving myself a number and a time frame.

Now that my goals were better and less hazy, I could see why everyone was scrambling to make resolutions each New Year. For me, at least, I had a little time off of my busy schedule to think, and was about to start a brand new semester. In fact, I no longer limit my resolutions to just one set at New Years. Every semester I try to write out a list of goals for myself, and even on breaks I make a few resolutions. I am a total resolution convert. I feel like they help keep me on track and push me to keep challenging myself. What about you? Do you make resolutions at New Years or throughout the year?

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The Hap-Happiest Season of Hallmark Movies

One of my great joys around Christmas time is watching Christmas movies. Not the classic ones like Miracle on 34th Street and A Charlie Brown Christmas, but the horrible, tacky, made for TV ones. Nothing brings a family closer than watching B actors go through every Christmas cliché in the book for an hour and a half in an aggressively mediocre rom-com. Do you know the movies I am talking about? E-Online even made a bingo card.

If you are looking for some high quality bad movies to watch, here are my suggestions:

  1. Holiday in Handcuffs– Starring Mellissa Joan Hart of Sabrina the Teenage Witch fame and dreamboat Mario Lopez, this movie originally aired on ABC Family, despite the fact that the premise is felony kidnapping. If that doesn’t put you in the Christmas spirit, I don’t know what will.
  2. Christmas Mail About a woman who answers children’s letters to Santa.
  3. The Christmas ParadeA journalist from New York gets stuck in small town Connecticut. What could happen next? Pretty sure this one will help you win at bingo.
  4. A Princess for ChristmasEvery girl’s dream. A mysterious relative appears to tell Jules that she and the niece and nephew she just became guardian of are to be whisked away to Europe to meet their royal relatives.

So, this holiday season, if you are looking for happy endings and plenty of laughs, you might consider checking some of these movies out, or just switch on your TV to the Hallmark channel. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day Review

I’m not sure at which age group Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson is targeted. The very old, falling apart version of the book I checked out from the library was full of cute illustrations, but the story itself was not without several references to drugs and sex. However, the story overall was delightful. If you have seen the movie with Amy Adams, the book is very similar. Within one 24-hour period, the reader is introduced to Miss Pettigrew, an out of work governess whose whole life has been lived by the book. Then, entirely by accident, she finds herself in the middle of the whirlwind life of Miss LaFosse, a nightclub singer. Over the course of the day, everything Miss Pettigrew thought she knew is turned upside down. An adorable tale of self-discovery unfolds, set against the backdrop of the 1930’s. The characters are all vividly alive. Miss Pettigrew is timid, but funny, and grows into a truly lovable protagonist. Delysia LaFosse is as charming as the sparkling world around her, and the colorful cast of characters that parade themselves through Miss LaFosse’s apartment make for a lively, fairytale esc story that just happens to be all grown up. Anyone looking to escape a drab or dreary life should dive right into Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.

 

A Capitol Thanksgiving

I had a bit of an unconventional Thanksgiving this year. Instead of going home, I traveled to Washington DC with my friend Christina. In preparation for my semester abroad next year, I needed to visit the Austrian Embassy to get my visa processed.

We stayed at the Hosteling International Hostel in DC, just a few blocks away from Metro Central, which was a great hostel. Not only was it affordable, but they also offered all of the linens we needed and free breakfast. The environment there was also a plus. Everyone was really friendly and cool. The hostel had nightly outings if you were looking for something to do. We went one night on a free walking tour of Georgetown, and got to see where the Kennedys’ lived and a little of Georgetown University.

Georgetown University

Georgetown University

All of Friday morning was spent across town at the Austrian embassy applying for my visa. It was a bit hectic and stressful, but every single person I encountered that morning could not have been nicer, so I made it through. My application got accepted for processing, and my visa should arrive, along with my passport, in a week or so. Afterwards we got coffee with a friend of mine who recently graduated, and headed over to the International Spy Museum. There was a line, and the whole place was pretty crowded, since it was the Friday after Thanksgiving, but it was still a good time. The museum focuses on the history of espionage. I was very excited, because I have always thought spies were fascinating. When you arrive inside the actual exhibit, you are instructed to choose a cover identity, and later on you are tested to see if you can maintain your cover. There were lots of interactive exhibits, but we missed quite a few due to crowds/long lines. I would suggest going to the museum at an off time, if possible, to really get the full experience. They were also running a special exhibit on Bond villains, which the two of us felt we couldn’t fully appreciate, having not seen very many Bond movies. However, if you have a Bond buff in the family, they will probably like it.

Spy Pigeon!

Spy Pigeon!

Saturday was the day we had reserved for the Smithsonian. We toured the Air and Space, American History, and Natural History museums until we wore ourselves out. Air and Space was in full swing, with volunteers out in the exhibits giving hands on presentations. American history, on the other hand, had a whole wing shut down for construction. A lot of my favorite parts of the museum were temporarily gone, which was a bummer, but they still had the First Ladies’ gowns and Julia Child’s kitchen, so I won’t complain too much. It just means that I will have to go back when the renovations are finished. The Natural History museum was a delight. We skipped the Hope diamond room, and most of the crowds, to focus on the hall of mammals and wildlife photography exhibits. We joked that since it was too cold to go to the zoo, we would look at taxidermy and photographed animals instead. All of it was very fun.P1080606 P1080610

By the end of our Smithsonian adventure, we were exhausted. We decided to check out Chinatown for dinner, and stumbled upon Chinatown Express, a small Chinese restaurant where they make their own noodles fresh everyday. I had the duck noodle soup, and it was out of this world delicious. Now I can’t stop talking about it.10818106_1520557598201208_136939547_n

It was an enjoyable, brief trip to check out the nation’s capital. Thanks to Christina for coming with me!

The Big Short by Michael Lewis Review

The Big Short by Michael Lewis is a distinctly hilarious account of the rather unfunny topic of the 2008 market crash. Interweaving and retelling the accounts of his colorful cast of money managers: Steve Eisman and his team of Danny Moses and Vincent Daniel, Michael Burry, and Charlie Ledley and Jamie Mai, Lewis takes his reader behind the scenes and into the world of Wall Street from 2005 through 2008.

Lewis did have biases, however. He was convinced that everyone on Wall Street was either a crook or an idiot with no idea what he or she was doing. He had an overall unfavorable view of the system, and was pre-disposed to look for flaws and corruption, and to root for the underdog. This was evident in the people he chose to profile. In fact, the entire basis of the book is a look at the financial collapse from the point of view of those who went against popular opinion and saw it coming. That perspective does not lend itself well to an overly favorable view of Wall Street. In fact, it is revealed at the end of the book that Lewis had previously written a book about his brief period on Wall Street in the 1980’s called Liar’s Poker, that had, to put it one way, caused some headaches for his former bosses.

All together, the reader is left with one overarching theme: The world, Wall Street in particular, is ridiculous, complicated, and unfair. While this book is far from an uplifting, feel-good read, it is also not too discouraging. The intensely character based story helps to off-set some of the potential for it to be boring and depressing. All of the characters were hilarious, from unfiltered remarks by Steve Eisman, to the out of place Californians of Cornwall Capital, they all struck it rich by going against the grain at the right time. Naturally, the kinds of people willing to bet against what everyone else is assuring them is true are a tad eccentric. They also make for a great story.

The financial instruments discussed in the book are quite opaque, but Lewis explains them very clearly. He also makes sure to explain everything multiple times, so if it doesn’t make sense at first, the reader gets a second chance. By the end, I felt confident that I had at least a decent understanding of the sub-prime mortgage market, CDOs and credit default swaps. As a non-fiction book, the 250 pages take longer to read than a novel, but I did not feel that it was too long. I would recommend this book to anyone, no matter his or her background in finance, who has an interest in reading about the market collapse of 2008.

(A quick word of caution: this book contains adult language, and may not be suitable for teens interested in finance.)